On Tea Party, Morgan Freeman Should Follow His Past Advice
Where’s the Morgan Freeman who once called for an end to condescending racial hand-wringing? Where’s the Morgan Freeman who once stunned Mike Wallace by calling Black History Month “ridiculous”?
You’re gonna relegate my history to a month?… I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history… Stop talking about [racism]. I’m gonna stop calling you a white man, and I’m gonna ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman.
That venerable actor appears to be gone, replaced by a bitter doppelganger engaged in the very race-baiting he once decried.
Last month saw the broadcast of an interview with Freeman by CNN’s Piers Morgan:
… Morgan asked the actor, "Has Obama helped the process of eradicating racism or has it, in a strange way, made it worse?”
“Made it worse. Made it worse,” Freeman replied. “The tea partiers who are controlling the Republican party ... their stated policy, publicly stated, is to do whatever it takes to see to it that Obama only serves one term. What underlines that? Screw the country. We're going to do whatever we can to get this black man out of here."
Freeman cited no comment or action which supports his characterization of the Tea Party. Instead he perpetuated the Left's long-standing argument from intimidation, that any opposition to President Obama or his policies is self-evidently racist:
Dismissing Morgan's suggestion that the Tea Party's motivations might be merely political, Freeman asserted, "It is a racist thing."
Freeman’s take on the Tea Party is uniquely disappointing. Coming from a man who has clearly thought outside the leftist box, rejected the condescension of lowered expectations, and recognized the cultural apartheid of race-based history, it is particularly disheartening to see the unfounded assumption that political disagreement is motivated by bigotry.
Such assumptions, asserted as self-evident fact, preclude much needed debate on the issues of the day. One cannot confront an adversary they do not understand. Even if Freeman fundamentally disagrees with every principle the Tea Party upholds, he fails to argue against those principles by imputing distasteful motives.
Alas, this has become the standard mode of attack against the Tea Party. Rather than engage on the issues, detractors leap straight to name-calling. When it’s not an accusation of racism, it’s one of stupidity, partisanship, or malice:
Gov. Deval Patrick, the first black governor of Massachusetts, said it’s not clear to him that racism is motivating the Tea Party.
“I can tell you that it’s clear from the evidence that the, ‘To heck with the interests of the common good, whatever we need to do to derail this presidency,’ has characterized some if not all Tea Party behavior in the United States. There’s no doubt about it,” he told a local Boston radio show, according to the Boston Globe.
The truth is precisely opposite these charges. The Tea Party stands for individual rights, those of all individuals, “regardless of race, creed, or national origin.” The movement is at odds with “the common good.” That is because the common good is necessarily at odds with the individual. The common good is collectivism, the same which informs communism, theocracy, and yes – fascism.
Today, as since time immemorial, the common good calls for the sacrifice of innocents to ward off floods, bring rain, and feed the masses. The common good, by its very nature, seeks to destroy. Those who evoke it, as we who hear it, inherently understand what it means. Someone is going to be hurt at the pleasure of another.
The Tea Party, by contract, seeks to harm no one. The Tea Party upholds the rights of each individual to pursue their own happiness guided by their own judgment. The Tea Party seeks a society free of force and fraud, where voluntary trade of products and services fosters personal and economic growth without arbitrarily imposed limits.
That fundamental purpose is why these arguments from intimidation are so impotent. The Tea Party can never be racist, because it respects each person as an individual and not a generic member of a group. The Tea Party can never “take hostages,” because it stands opposed to the initiation of force. Refusing consent to further debt and taxation is not “economic terrorism.” If any movement is filled with economic terrorists, it is the redistributionist Left led by President Obama. They take our money by force!
The nature of the Tea Party, and the fallacy of its critics, is embodied in minorities like GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain. Shamefully dismissed by the Left as a “minstrel,” Cain’s personal story is illustrative of real hope and change.
Hope is a response to liberty, a spark of creativity excited by vision and sustained by ability. Change is a product of the rational mind, the will of man shaping a world in which he can survive and thrive. Hope is not dispensed through government ration. Change cannot burn while boxed in.
Evermore people of varied stripe embrace this revolution in thought, the same revolution began by our Founders and stubbornly propelled against history’s tide. The rhetoric of freedom does not always sprint as well as that of provision. But the former pulls ahead in the long-run, because it has the virtue of being true. Cain is one who recognizes that dynamic: "So, name-calling is something that's going to continue in this, because they don't know how to stop this movement.”
Of course, Cain is not the only minority so inclined. Black Tea Party activist Ali Akbar wrote an open letter to Morgan Freeman (watch Roger L. Simon interview Akbar here), inviting the actor to engage the Tea Party first hand:
There’s already plenty of groupthink among American blacks. Over 90% of us vote Democrat with religious regularity, and we have been doing so for over fifty years. For a short time, I was one of them. I realized a few years ago that the Democrats’ promises of equality bestowed by government wasn’t working and will never work. I came to believe that redistributionist policies with the goal of social justice [were] essentially creating a new plantation within the federal government. Scraps might be thrown our way, but dependence on the plantation would be the inevitable result.
That sentiment is shared by former NAACP chapter president C.L. Bryant: “There is a 50-year old lie that has caused an entire people to become harlots to the political idea that government knows what is best.” Bryant seeks to expose that lie in his forthcoming documentary film Runaway Slave.
Then there’s me, the elected chair of a coalition of Tea Party groups in Minnesota. My father grew up in Detroit, battling not only the institutional racism which only government can enforce, but the stagnation of dependence offered in the guise of equality. He was told he would never amount to anything, not by rich white men, but by his own family and community. As he proved them wrong, lifting his household out of the lower class, the only recognition from home was a demand for handouts.
Like Ali Akbar, I believe Morgan Freeman is more insightful than his recent comments betray. I believe that the same Morgan Freeman who shocked Mike Wallace, who defiantly rejected the condescension of Black History Month, and who called for an end to racial distinction, is capable of seeing the Tea Party as it truly is. Whether he agrees with the movement in principle is a separate question.
Regardless, Freeman’s comments make it clear that he does not understand the Tea Party, and therefore cannot truly oppose it. To that end, I join Akbar in inviting Freeman to engage the Tea Party directly. He’ll find no condescension, no racial division, and nothing whatsoever to fear.